What is Anxiety?

Anxiety – as a general term – concerns the way your body reacts to stressful situations and circumstances. It is completely normal for everyone to feel some degree of anxiety when living through stressful situations, like taking a major exam or giving a speech in front of a large group of people. While this type of situational anxiety is often unpleasant, it can be beneficial, and ultimately drive the person experiencing it to do a better job (especially if they perform well under pressure). This type of anxiety is fleeting, and will resolve on its own once the test is over or the speech has concluded, as the case may be. Regular feelings of anxiety do not interfere with day-to-day life.

When it comes to anxiety disorders, the feelings of crippling stress and panic that an individual feels will become debilitating. Anxieties will directly interfere with daily life, and prevent the sufferer from engaging in activities that were previously enjoyed, spending time with friends and sometimes even leaving the house to go grocery shopping, or completing other menial tasks. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder throughout the United States, with over 40 million adults over the age of 18 reportedly diagnosed. While anxiety disorders are somewhat easy to treat, it is reported that only 36.9% of those in need of treatment will actually receive it.

Different Types of Anxiety Disorder

There are several different types of anxiety disorder, ranging from the mild and moderate to the severe. Some of the more common varieties of anxiety disorder include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This disorder is the most common, and is characterized by severe and ongoing anxiety that often interferes with daily life. Those with GAD will constantly worry about a number of different things, including interpersonal relationships, financial security, physical health, their work life and a wide variety of other common issues. GAD can be easily treated with a combination of medicinal and holistic treatment options, and it affects an estimated 3 million American adults on an annual basis. 
  • Panic disorder. Those with panic disorder will experience frequent panic attacks at unexpected times. These attacks can be brought on by specific situations or by (seemingly) nothing at all. Brief periods of intense fear are coupled with physical symptoms like chest pains, shortness of breath and trouble breathing, heart palpitations, stomach problems and dizziness or light-headedness (often due to hyperventilation). Panic disorder is often treated with prescription medication.
  • Social anxiety disorder. Also known as social phobia, this specific anxiety disorder is marked by an overwhelming and crippling amount of anxiety experienced in everyday social situations. Those suffering from social anxiety disorder also tend to feel extremely self-conscious. Some who are afflicted with this disorder will only experience symptoms when it comes to a very specific setting or situation – for example, they may only experience severe anxiety when engaging in public speaking or when eating in front of other people. Others with social anxiety disorder will avoid every type of social situation entirely. This type of anxiety disorder is usually treated with a combination of medicinal and therapeutic treatment. 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops as the result of a traumatic experience (or set of experiences). Some examples of traumatic events that trigger PTSD include childhood abuse and neglect, sexual assault, significant accidents, time spent in the military, natural disasters and violent personal assaults. Those suffering from PTSD will experience flashbacks, avoid certain people, places and things, and often resort to substance abuse as a means of self-medication. In fact, the National Comorbidity Study reported that 52% of males and 28% of females who have been diagnosed with PTSD will also meet the criteria for an alcohol abuse disorder. Those who are afflicted with both disorders will need to be treated in a dual diagnosis treatment center. 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Those with OCD will experience recurrent and unwanted thoughts, which will often be coupled with compulsive, repetitive behaviors. Some common repetitive behaviors that those with OCD engage in include hand-washing, counting and cleaning. They believe that if they engage in these repetitive behaviors, the obsessive thoughts will go away or at least be effectively managed. Of course, this is not the case, and professional intervention will be necessary in order to successfully manage symptoms – which are harshly disruptive to day-to-day life. 
  • Phobias. Those with a phobia will present with an irrational fear concerning a specific object, activity or experience. Having a phobia is much different than simply being ‘afraid’ of something. Many people have certain things that they are inexplicably afraid of, such as clowns, snakes or spiders. Those with a diagnosable phobia will be sent into a panic whenever the object, activity or experience they are afraid of occurs – even when there is a threat of it occurring. Phobias are disruptive to daily life and must be treated with intensive therapy. 

There are other classifications of anxiety disorder, such as separation anxiety disorder and illness anxiety disorder (fear of being away from a loved one and fear of getting sick or falling ill, respectively). It is crucial that those who are experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorders of any kind reach out for professional treatment. Treating anxiety is extremely important, because those who are left untreated will often turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of alleviating symptoms. Because of this, comorbidity rates are extremely high. Dual diagnosis treatment centers such as Immersion Recovery Center offer comprehensive, integrated care to those who are struggling with substance abuse and anxiety.

Non-Narcotic Treatments for Anxiety

Once an individual has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, he or she can begin to explore potential treatment options. Treatment for anxiety falls into two main categories – medicinal treatment options and psychotherapy/holistic treatment options. Those who have been struggling with a substance abuse disorder in conjunction with anxiety will want to look into non-narcotic treatment options. The following list includes some viable options for non-narcotic and non-addictive medicinal treatment options when it comes to quickly and effectively treating symptoms of anxiety.

Non-Narcotic/Non-Addictive Medicinal Treatment Options

  1. SSRIs. This class of medication – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – is one of the most commonly prescribed in the treatment of anxiety. This medication works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, which ultimately leads to improved mood and a reduction of stress. 
  2. SNRIs. This class of medication – serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors – has been proven effective in treating the symptoms of panic disorders and GAD. Not only does this type of medication help regulate the release of serotonin, but it helps release norepinephrine – a brain chemical that affects concentration. 
  3. Buspirone. This is a non-narcotic and non-addictive medication that works similarly to an SSRI, though it only affects one subtype of serotonin receptor within the brain, ultimately leading to fewer side effects. This is an ideal medication for those who are struggling with mild to moderate anxiety. 
  4. Hydroxyzine. This non-narcotic medication works by blocking histamine receptors within the brain, ultimately elevating mood and acting as a low-grade sedative. 
  5. Beta-Blockers. These medications work to provide temporary relief in the case of anxiety-related episodes, such as panic attacks. They do not actually change the brain chemistry, thus they are not prescribed long-term. But beta-blockers are non-narcotic, and an ideal option for those who need immediate relief from intense symptoms. 

Non-Narcotic/Non-Addictive Holistic Treatment Options

The following are common holistic treatments, used to safely and effectively combat symptoms of anxiety:

  1. Intensive psychotherapy. 
  2. Inpatient treatment (integrated care). 
  3. Relaxation training. 
  4. Meditation. 
  5. Hypnosis. 
  6. Mindfulness training.

Immersion Recovery offers dual diagnosis treatment, combining non-narcotic medicinal treatment options with proven holistic methodologies, ultimately providing comprehensive care that works to treat both existing disorders simultaneously. Our on-site psychiatrists will work to prescribe a non-addictive medication suitable to your individual needs, while our therapists and counselors will provide intensive therapeutic care. If you are struggling with what you believe may be an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, or if you have been diagnosed in the past and are currently struggling with substance abuse or dependency, we are here to help. Integrated care is crucial to achieving long-term sobriety, and our unique and individualized treatment program caters to both anxiety disorder treatment and addiction recovery. For more information, give us a call today.

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